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You may know that protein powder supplements are popular with bodybuilders and athletes as a post-workout drink, but did you know that protein shakes are not limited to workout times or athletes?

Gym-goers are not the only folks who can reap the benefits of protein powder—you can benefit from using protein powder regardless of how often you exercise, how much you lift, or how fast you can run. 

Your friends here at Garage Gym Reviews (including our expert product testers and our expert panel of registered dietitians) have tested over 70 protein powders, including a handful of different types—everything from the best whey protein to the best pea protein powder. We even have a massive spreadsheet detailing each product we test—down to the price per serving and how many grams of protein, carbs, and fats are in each protein powder

All that said, we’re going to dive into the top reasons you’ll want to add a protein powder to your routine that go beyond the well-known muscle-building benefits. 

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider.

Quick Overview: Benefits of Protein Powder

Protein1 is one of the three macronutrients (along with carbohydrates and fats) your body needs for energy and daily function. Proteins help build muscle, recover muscle tissue, and are essentially the core of your existence due to the fact that proteins make up your hair, skin, bones, and muscles. 

A high-protein diet has also been shown to help folks reduce body weight and change body composition by supporting muscle protein synthesis. 

An image for the Sunwarrior protein review

Now that you know the importance of a high-protein diet, let’s dive into the benefits of protein powder. Other than the convenience of having protein accessible (and relatively affordable per serving), here are the top benefits our team here at GGR sees to using protein powder: 

  • Supports muscle growth 
  • Promotes healthy heart function
  • Can potentially lower blood pressure
  • Increase satiety and the feeling of fullness
  • May aid weight loss

Types of Protein Powder

Before we cover all of the top benefits of protein powder, let’s go over some different types of protein powder. The most common types of protein you’ll encounter include: 

  • Whey protein powder
  • Casein protein powder
  • Egg white protein powder
  • Plant-based protein powder

If you’re using a plant-based protein dietary supplement, here are some examples of plant-based protein sources that may be used in high-quality powders:

  • Soy
  • Hemp 
  • Chia seeds 
  • Quinoa 
  • Pea 
  • Brown rice 
  • Flaxseed 
  • Pumpkin seeds

Now, let’s dive into the benefits of protein powder.

1. Protein Powder is Convenient and Affordable

Let’s not overlook the fact that protein powder is fairly easy to purchase, store in your pantry, and mix up quickly with water. Plus, most (but not all) protein powders are under $2 per serving and can provide you with anywhere between 20 to 30 grams of protein in each serving. Getting the same amount of protein from poultry or beef sources often costs more. 

While protein powder doesn’t replace whole food sources that provide you with a full profile of vitamins, minerals, and fiber—it’s a super convenient way to supplement your existing diet with protein. 

2. Protein Powder Can Help Stimulate Muscle Growth 

Growth, repair, and overall maintenance of your muscle tissues depends on a natural biological process called muscle protein synthesis, which happens when your muscles undergo strain. 

When you exercise, protein synthesis is a natural response to muscle strain and stress. The body responds by repairing the small tears you make in your muscles during exercise with proteins, which are made up of amino acids (often referred to as the building blocks of muscle).

jym-supplement-stack

A 2008 review2 published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that a moderately higher-protein diet may help stimulate muscle protein synthesis and retention of lean muscle mass.

In a more recent 2019 systematic review3 published in Nutrients, researchers lay out the fact that consuming enough protein is critical for maintaining optimal health, growth, and development. This review also mentions that a high amount of protein in your diet may prevent the breakdown of muscle proteins (even in older adults). 

It also calls out that the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) reflects the minimum amount of dietary protein required to meet essential amino acid requirements, establish nitrogen balance, and prevent muscle mass loss, not the amount of protein you’d need if you’re active or looking to build muscle. 

Needless to say, if you’re looking to do more than just maintain your muscle mass—and you’re seeking muscle gains—be sure to review our guide that will answer the age-old question: How much protein do I need?

3. Protein Powder Might Promote Heart Health

You may be aware that cardiovascular exercise can aid a healthy heart by literally exercising the muscle tissues of the heart, but did you know that diet can contribute to heart health, too? 

Perry Nix, R.D., notes that “high levels of ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the bloodstream can lead to plaque buildup in arteries and even heart disease. Supplementing with whey protein may improve heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and blood fats,” says Perry. 

The “bad” cholesterol that Perry mentions is usually attributed to folks who have diets high in fats and low in fiber. 

earth fed muscle protein

Whey and other types of protein powders are processed by either concentrating or isolating proteins during food processing. The extraction of the proteins to make a powder typically reduces the amount of other macronutrients from the protein source. This makes most protein powders low in both fats and carbs, which may be beneficial if you’re looking to reduce the amount of fats in your diet. 

That said, a 2018 study4 published by Circulation: Heart Failure found that within a group of over 2,000 middle-aged men, a diet of high-protein foods was only marginally associated with increased risk of heart failure. However, this study also found that participants with higher animal protein intake had lower intake of fiber but higher intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids. On the flip side, a higher plant protein intake was generally associated with healthier lifestyle and dietary factors. 

4. Protein Powder May Help Lower Blood Pressure

In addition to protein powders potentially contributing to increased heart health (and a decreased risk of heart failure), a 2009 review5 suggests that there is some evidence that dairy-based protein powders may also reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. 

“Whey protein powders could reduce blood pressure in individuals with hypertension,” Perry says “Although more research is needed, milk protein contains peptides that may act as an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor to widen blood vessels and lower blood pressure.” 

In a 2010 study6, researchers found that the consumption of dairy-based proteins improved vascular reactivity and lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This is important because when your blood pressure is too high, you could be at risk for cardiovascular disease.  

5. Protein Powder Can Increase Satiety

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition2 suggests that protein in general increases satiety and the feeling of fullness more than carbohydrates or fats. 

An image of Naked Nutrition Naked Pea in oatmeal

Perry mentions the fact that protein takes longer to break down than fat and carbohydrates, which is part of the reason it increases satiety. “When you eat a high-protein meal or post-workout shake, your body absorbs food at a slower rate, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer.”

Additionally, Perry notes that “protein intake increases concentrations of GLP-1, a hormone that signals fullness and satiety to the brain. As a result, you feel enhanced satiety and may consume fewer calories overall.”

6. Protein Powder May Reduce Blood Sugar

If you choose a protein powder without a ton of added sugar or sweeteners, you may be able to stabilize your blood sugars, which is especially helpful for anyone with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or type 2 diabetes. 

In fact, a 2003 study7 published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that there is evidence to suggest folks with type 2 diabetes can benefit from high-protein diets because it may lower blood glucose after meals, which could improve overall glucose levels. 

Perry adds that to that by saying, “consuming protein powder with a low sugar content may help regulate blood sugar levels. Again, protein takes longer to digest. This slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, reducing the chance of a blood sugar spike.”

7. Protein Powder Can Aid Weight Loss

According to a 2003 review8 published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, there is convincing evidence that a higher protein intake increases thermogenesis and satiety compared to diets of lower protein content, which can lead to weight loss and reduced body fat. 

And you also have to take the thermic effect of food (TEF) into account. “Protein increases the amount of energy required for digesting, absorbing, and metabolizing food,” Perry says.”Protein has a greater thermic effect than fat and carbohydrates, which means your body works harder to break it down and burns significantly more calories during digestion.”

woman drinking quest protein

A 2015 study9 published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that on average, dietary protein requires 20 to 30 percent of its usable energy to be expended for metabolism and (or) storage. Meanwhile, carbohydrates require 5 to 10 percent and dietary fats require zero to 3 percent. In other words, high-protein foods and supplements can aid fat loss due to the fact protein can be used as energy. 

RELATED: High-Protein Foods for Weight Loss

Perry also adds that “building and maintaining lean muscle mass requires energy, even at rest. Muscle is considered active tissue and burns more calories than fat tissue. Maintaining and gaining muscle mass can boost your metabolism, making it easier to burn more calories throughout the day and lose weight.”

Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Protein Powder 

Whether you’re seeking to add extra protein to your diet for muscle building or you’re looking to feel satiated between meals, the benefits of protein powder affect more than just your body composition—high-quality forms of protein can help you reduce your blood pressure and decrease your risk of heart disease. 

Benefits of Protein Powder FAQ

What are the benefits of protein powder?

The benefits of protein powder include muscle growth, healthy heart function, potentially lower blood pressure, an increased  feeling of fullness, and an aid weight loss just to name a few. 

When should I drink protein powder?

Despite what you may have heard, the best time to drink a protein shake is whenever it’s convenient for you! You can reap the benefits of protein powder any time of day, though most athletes and gym folks use protein powder supplements after workouts to help aid muscle protein synthesis after exercise. What’s really important though is your daily protein intake, so keep that in mind above all else.

What happens when you start taking protein powder?

Among other things, when you introduce protein powder supplements to your diet, you can increase your overall protein intake, which can prevent breakdown of muscle loss at any age. Some people may find that they experience bloating and other mild GI discomfort as their system gets used to the added protein, but this should subside fairly quickly. 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

References

  1. Venn BJ. Macronutrients and Human Health for the 21st Century. Nutrients. 2020;12(8):2363. Published 2020 Aug 7. doi:10.3390/nu12082363
  2. Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(5):1558S-1561S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558S
  3. Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1136. Published 2019 May 22. doi:10.3390/nu11051136
  4. Virtanen HEK, Voutilainen S, Koskinen TT, Mursu J, Tuomainen TP, Virtanen JK. Intake of Different Dietary Proteins and Risk of Heart Failure in Men: The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Circ Heart Fail. 2018;11(6):e004531. doi:10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.117.004531
  5. Pal S, Ellis V. The chronic effects of whey proteins on blood pressure, vascular function, and inflammatory markers in overweight individuals. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Jul;18(7):1354-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.397. Epub 2009 Nov 5. PMID: 19893505.
  6. Fekete ÁA, Giromini C, Chatzidiakou Y, Givens DI, Lovegrove JA. Whey protein lowers blood pressure and improves endothelial function and lipid biomarkers in adults with prehypertension and mild hypertension: results from the chronic Whey2Go randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;104(6):1534-1544. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.137919
  7. Gannon MC, Nuttall FQ, Saeed A, Jordan K, Hoover H. An increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78(4):734-741. doi:10.1093/ajcn/78.4.734
  8. Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23(5):373-385. doi:10.1080/07315724.2004.10719381
  9. Heather J Leidy, Peter M Clifton, Arne Astrup, Thomas P Wycherley, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Natalie D Luscombe-Marsh, Stephen C Woods, and Richard D Mattes. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Published 2015 Jun.

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